Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fun in the Snow!

Keeping the horses fed and making sure they have unfrozen water is sure challenging this time of year.

What goes in, must come out!

My horses tend not to drink as much water when I use those heaters that go inside the 100 gallon Rubbermaid tanks, so I use these heated water buckets. Which mean lots of refilling during the day. Sometimes I dump the warm water from the bucket into the bigger tank and refill the bucket for them. I can better track how much water they're drinking with the smaller buckets also. Keeping them hydrated is as critical in these cold temps as when it's hot out.

Missy, my wonderful quarter horse mare whose been with me the longest is 20 now and has a 5 month old at her side, so she has shelter when she needs it and plenty to eat.
This is Missy's first born, Danny, on the opposite end of their loafing shed. They are in a separate area from Spencer and his buddies. (Neenah, missy's filly, and Jake a 3 year old Quarab rescue, are in with Danny and Missy.)
Just trying to keep everyone fed and as comfortable as possible. I don't blanket my horses unless I see one of them shivering. Keeping hay in front of them usually keeps the shivers at bay.
Corner feeders are in both sides of their shed. I've noticed that horses don't like their butts towards the opening of a shed, facing in, when they are eating, but these guys have learned to accept it.

Jake and Neenah use these fence feed buckets for now. These buckets are a bit frustrating for Jake, because it's not easy for him to get a good mouthful. But that's okay. Plus I think it's up too high for him here, so I started setting them on a lower fence rail. That seems better.

The Parelli Playfield in winter. The pond is frozen and I walked out on it yesterday. Kind of scary, but the ice didn't crack! I told Rich about my excursion out onto the frozen pond and his response was, "The ice must be really thick, huh." He cracks himself up sometimes. I've just learned to roll with it.
Update: It has been snowing all day. It's gotten fairly deep!:0)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Do horses' feet get cold in the snow?

(This is a great question that a friend just emailed me. I had to post it!)


Yes, but they have this awesome system in their hooves. Researchers have discovered that horses have a shunt in the main vain at the back of their hoof, that shuts off the flow of blood to the hoof when the temperatures are really low. Then when hoof temp drops to a certain point, the shunt opens temporarily to allow warm blood to flow through it. Then it closes and on and on it goes to keep their hooves from freezing completely. That function is likely part of the reason why horses get laminitis.

So thinking about a steel shoe attached to the hoof, and steel nails driven into it, the steel, it would seem to me, would radiate the cold into the hoof so that system wouldn't function as efficiently. Shoes are a bad deal in the winter time especially in the snow.

I took this picture on a hike in the Little Book Cliffs, near Grand Junction, Colorado. We were looking for wild horses. We found them and it was kind of scary so I didn't get lots of great pictures. If you look closely, you can see the backs of two wild horses grazing on something. I'm not sure what they were eating out there. A little bit of everything I would imagine so that's why I like to feed my horses a variety of different hays. The brown and white horse is a stallion and he was a little bit snorty about us getting too close to his family. So we didn't.

So now I'm wondering if a foundered horse's hooves would freeze in the snow because the circulation in a foundered hoof isn't functioning normally....hmm. Or would the cold help them feel better. Somehow I don't think so, but I don't know?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Understanding the Relationship Between Colic, Laminitis and Founder.

Some of you have asked me questions that I’m going to try clearing up. To explain this topic in the best way I know how, I’m going to take you back and forth in time a little bit. My time! Just warning ya. Hang on and when you come to the end, you should have a way better understanding of these conditions. If not, let me know what the sticking points are and I’ll try to do a better job in a later post.

Is colic and founder the same thing? No

Can colic lead to founder? Yes

Does founder mean certain death for a horse suffering with it? No

Is shoeing and stall rest the cure for founder? No, not in my opinion and in fact the exact opposite of what we should do.

Clear as mud? Keep reading, it gets worse. Just kidding.

Colic, as most of us know, is another term for bellyache. That’s pretty simple. When a human baby get colicy, we’re simply saying, he has an upset stomach.

So now I want to share a story with you about how confusing the terms colic and founder can get you into serious trouble with your horses and why we all should know the difference.

About 13 years ago, I was just getting back into horses and I purchased my mare, Missy. Before that, I didn’t have much involvement with horses for about 10 years and I never really had a good understanding of colic and founder and had never heard the term laminitis back then. If I did, I let it pass as a complicated thing I would probably never need to know about anyway. I was wrong about that and if that line of thinking sounds familiar to you, please read on.

Me and Missy in 1998

One afternoon, Missy began showing signs of a bellyache.

Now this wasn’t my first experience with colic. My last horse that I lived with back in 1979, was an Appy gelding named Joe. He had gotten into the grain barrel and ate about 25 pounds of sweet feed. (Yes, sweet feed…I know why not just feed them a carton of Hershey bars every day.)

Joe and me in 1979 (Don't laugh at the tack, it was the 70s.)

I came home to find him thrashing around on the ground. Scared out of my wits, I called the vet, I was told to keep him walking. So I walked with him most the night, crying and pleading with him to get up every time he tried to lie down. I blubbered things like, “Don’t you die on me!” It was a very dramatic and overwhelming situation that I will never forget.

Later I was actually told by other horse people including my farrier at the time that my horse had foundered. He hadn’t foundered, but this advice created further confusion of the terms in my mind.

At the time, I didn’t know it would have been okay for him to lie down, just not to roll while he was down there. I made that poor boy walk for hours, but he got through the episode with no further complications that I was aware of. He was a lucky boy and walking him was the right thing to do.

He was also fortunate not to have twisted his intestines when he was thrashing around on the ground. That can happen when they are allowed to roll around on the ground in an attempt to relieve the pain. It’s typically referred to as “twisted gut.” And to visualize that think of balloon animals and how the artist twists the long balloon tubes to create the figures. One twist like that in a horse’s gut and there are only two situations that follow: surgery and/or euthanasia.

So here I was many years later with my beloved mare, Missy, in the same situation, but I was never certain what the cause of her bellyache was, just that she had one. I had switched from sweet feed to mixing my own grains and I added rolled corn which if it isn’t used fast enough can mold. That was just one thought. I don’t do that anymore either.

I called the vet for Missy and explained that I thought my horse was foundering, should I keep walking her, I asked. “NO!” was the response, DO NOT WALK HER!

Well, I couldn’t figure that one out, walking Joe was the right thing to do for him when he “founder!” Right?

Well, Missy was not foundering, she was colicing and yes, I should have been walking her, but the vet had heard “founder” and her advice not to walk her was correct.

So when the vet arrived and determined that I was ignorant. She tubed Missy and my sweet mare pooped for us and seemed fine afterwards.

After that experience, I decided I’d better do some research. So I purchased a big fat veterinarian’s handbook. I tried to figure it all out from that. But it was boring to read and over my head.

So back to now. We know that colic is a bellyache and a horse should be walked and helped to relax. Yes, it’s okay to let them lie down and rest, but not roll. If the colic is from impaction, pooping is always a good sign. If you walk the horse until it poops and seems to feel better, I’d say you got them through it and just keep an eye on them for awhile to make sure they’re behaving normally again. Watch for signs of acute lamintis. That would be sudden tender-footedness or simply look for a ring around the hoof to grow out from the coronet band a few weeks later. That would mean that yes, the horses laminae was affected during the event.

Okay, so as for founder, we need to discuss laminitis to figure out what causes founder and to discuss laminitis, we need to know some basics about hoof anatomy.

First, laminitis is simply the term for inflamed laminae. If you hit your fingernail with a hammer, it not only hurts like a sonofagun, but your finger feels pretty warm afterwards. Well, laminitis is not quite the same thing, but that was a fun analogy and would have related better to mechanical laminitis. Another time!

What is laminae? Well, if you look inside a hoof, you have the coffin bone. That bone is attached to the inside of the hoof wall with laminae.

Think of the laminae as a Velcro fastener. The outside of the coffin bone is covered with dermal laminae, the soft side of the Velcro.

And the inside of the hoofwall is covered with epidermal laminae the rough side of Velcro. The two sides zip together creating a very strong attachment of bone to wall.

The epidermal laminae (wall side) doesn’t actually have a blood supply, but the dermal laminae does and when something goes wrong with that blood supply, the dermal (sometimes called “sensitive”) laminae becomes inflamed and hurts!

At the onset of that inflammation, whatever the cause might be, we’d refer to it as the acute phase of laminitis.

What do you do if you can catch it at this stage. Try to extinguish it. First response for this is to get the hooves under cold running water (That’s what I’ve heard and read anyway.) and call the vet. DON’T walk the horse! (Whether the cold water is the right thing to do, I’m not sure, but it sounds right for now.)

Causes of laminitis could take me days and pages to describe. But it can be caused by mechanical means – shoes, sudden pounding ride on pavement, termed road founder, but mainly, it’s organically caused, or dietary. The horse ate something or a lot of something that he shouldn’t have. That would be considered “organically caused” laminitis.

So back to Joe the Appy who got into the grain barrel. What took place was that he ingested a bunch of sugary grain suddenly.

When that sugar (fructose) made its way to what is referred to as his “hind gut” where fermentation of food rich in fructose takes place, the bacteria that is a normal part of the digestive receives a sudden gusher of the food it thrives on.

In order to handle such a huge influx of all that yummyness, the bacteria must begin reproducing at an alarming rate in order to digest it all. That sudden increase in the population of fructose loving bacteria now enters the blood stream. Weeee!

We all know that blood flows throughout our entire bodies, but for horses whose hooves have a fairly complex circulatory system in order to function properly, blood is the nourishment for the dermal (sensitive “bone-side”) laminae.

But with this new development of 25 pounds of sweet feed in one sitting sent to the hindgut causing the bacteria to reproduce like mad and take a ride on the bloodstream subway, the blood isn’t enriching the laminae any longer, it’s poisoning it. Make sense?

Instead of a nice normal blood supply that the laminae is accustomed to receiving from the heart, it’s now dealing with blood that is out of balance. Inflammation is the first sign that the sensitive laminae is in serious trouble.

Now the horse is in the acute phase of laminitis, but let’s say no one notices and really we normally wouldn’t catch it here. It’s sudden and passes rather quickly.

Like with Joe. He got into the grain barrel when I wasn’t home. He probably did suffer a minor bout of laminitis shortly after the colic. Any major disruption in a horse’s normal life can cause that. But I wouldn’t have known it even if he could have put a big sign on his butt that said “My feet are ON FIRE!”

There was no sign of lameness and likely there wouldn’t have been because his hooves were locked into a pair of steel shoes. But he didn’t founder, if he had, there would have been lameness eventually even with shoes. What should I have done in that case? First! Get rid of the shoes and DON’T force him to walk if he’s not comfortable doing so.

So here’s something to ponder while we’re talking about diet. What happens when a horse doesn’t ingest a huge amount of sugary feed all at one time? What if we are just feeding a few pounds of sweet feed every day?

The horse may not be showing any signs of lameness, so he must not be suffering from laminitis. Right?

Well, no. The constant influx of too much rich food can cause what is referred to as sub-clinical laminitis. That is laminitis with no sign of lameness. The dermal laminae is not doing as well as it would be if the nourishing blood that was circulating through it was well…healthier.

If your horse were in that situation and:

a.) say you go out for a local competitive trail ride one day. Your horse appears healthy and gets a daily work out in the arena, and has shoes on! You figure he should be able to handle a 25 or 30 mile ride. But then he comes home with serious lameness from that ride. After a week of rest, he get’s better and is lame off an on from then on.

Or b.) what if your horse is pregnant and is dealing with a hormonal shift or imbalance that also has an affect on her body in addition to the her sensitive laminae that isn’t feeling so well and she starts to gradually show signs of lameness.

Or c.) a combination of situations or events that are heaped on top of hooves that are already not doing quite as well as they could be, but we aren’t noticing anything out of the ordinary and we just keep doing what we’ve always done, because it’s worked so far.

What I’m saying is that one thing might not cause the laminae to go into the acute stages of laminitis, but a combination of conditions could bring it on and then we are left scratching our heads trying to understand what happened.

Next: What is founder? Well, let’s go back to our Velcro, or laminae and the blood supply it’s receiving is not enriching like it should be. In fact, the dermal laminae is being poisoned. It is becoming weaker. Either suddenly or over time - depending on the situation.

What if we’re taking about a long term condition of a horse who is not on the healthiest diet he could be on? The signs would be lameness off an on, sometimes on trail rides, or after working for a few hours in the arena.

Have you ever heard someone say, “I think he’s just lazy and starts limping to get out of work, because he only limps when…”?

I have. Horses are smart, but in the wild showing signs of lameness means: I’m probably going to be someone’s dinner soon and the herd will kick me out because they don’t want a horse tagging along with them that has a “BBQ” brand on his butt. Some of that mentality never leaves our domestic horses, so trust me, when a horse is lame, he’s genuinely hurting.

So the blood supply to the laminae is no longer nourishing it as much as it could be which means the dermal laminae will start to weaken and begin loosing its attachment to the epidermal laminae. The cells the dermal laminae normally generate go willy nilly! It’s been suggest that as the lamellar attachment is lost in the front of the hoof, and cells are being generated like crazy in the back of the hoof, what results is a hoof that appears long in the heel and shorter in the toe. A founder hoof.

If nothing is done to turn the horse’s situation around, the laminae attachment is eventually simply going to fail. And that is often when a vet will tell you, your horses coffin bone has rotated.

The dermal laminae loses its grip on the other side of the Velcro. It will essentially die. The coffin bone rotates (possibly). That’s founder.

Coffin bone rotation is a controversial thing with natural hoofcare practitioners and I won’t go into that here, but it may or may not happen.

Okay, so then there is chronic laminitis, which is really a foundered hoof that just isn’t getting any better. It could get better if the right things were done for it, but because it can take months and sometimes years to improve that horse’s situation, euthanasia is normally the next step.

There are other causes of founder. Such as “road founder” but I really believe that anything other than organically caused laminitis is not the true cause of founder. I believe a horse who is dealing with sub-clinical laminitis for a period of time and then is put into a second or third situation, trail ride, pregnancy, someone tossing apples over the fence in the fall or when temperatures are just right for grasses to be full of sugar, that horse is set up for full-blown founder.

I want to touch on one more topic for a bit in this long post and that is grass founder. Or acute laminitis caused by letting a horse out on rich pasture in the spring and fall.

Grass is one of the most natural, best sources of nutrition a horse can get. When I purchased Missy, the folks who boarded her would lock her in a stall night and day for weeks at a time during the spring to keep her off the lush green grass.

When I got her, she was a skinny little thing, with a shaggy coat and kind of pathetic looking really. I had no idea that bringing her home and letting her eat the lovely grass on the dairy where we lived at the time would cause her to bloom into a really lovely mare.

Missy, within a few months of coming home, leaves her thin, shaggy body behind.

Before I got her, she was standing in a dark stall, 24/7, getting grain and hay twice a day which they thought was better than letting her eat that wonderfully nutritious grass? NOPE! You can’t fault them for being careful and you only know what you know at the time.
But that logic is backwards in most cases and here is what we need to know in order to understand “when” grass is dangerous.

Grass and grazing on it, isn't necessarily dangerous just because it’s spring, or because it’s wet, or it’s tall, or lush, or green and pretty, or anything of the other reasons I've heard from horse people. In fact, that’s likely when it’s the best thing for a horse! Just not suddenly and for 24 hours a day when they're not accustomed to eating it.

It’s dangerous during times of the year when we are experiencing sunny days and cold nights! Which coincidentally is Spring and Fall, normally.


Because on sunny days grass becomes little sugar manufacturing plants. Grass is busy generating the stuff it thrives on.

Now if we have a sunny day, and our grasses are generating all kinds of nutrients and sugars, and at night the temperature stays above 40 degrees, the grass will then respirate that excess (toxic levels) of sugars out and keep only the good stuff!

It keeps what it needs to be nutritious and healthy and gets rid of the toxins.

So the next day, the grass is safe. Maybe not safe for an obese horse with Insulin Resistance (IR) issues to be tossed out onto all day, but for a healthy horse, it’s probably not going to hurt him especially if he’s slowly acclimated to it.

But what happens when the night time temps dip below 40 degrees is that the grass plants CANNOT respirate the toxins out. It goes dormant for the night. And the next day when the sun comes back out, the grasses go back to work, generating more fructose - sugar.

After a few sunny days, followed by really cold nights, when I look out at the grass I see the Oompa Loompas marching around out there and their song starts running through my head! Yours too?

So there you have it as best I can explain it and what seems right in my mind. When a horse founders, you’ll eventually see white line separation at the surface of the hoof and that leads to other issues that we can get into later, like White Line Disease and abscessing. I believe all of those issues go hand in hand. If your horse suffers from one of those conditions, chances are another one was in place, we just didn’t realize it.

Here’s the million dollar question: Can any of those conditions be the result of poor trimming and shoeing?


Missy and Rich having a moment not long after we brought her home.

PS: In the next post, I’ll talk about choke and my Arab, Pearl, who is prone to choking. Choke is often confused with colic.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Trimming a Foundered Horse

One of the problems I've been having with Cricket, the mare who foundered this past Summer while she was being boarded on a friends pasture, was getting her to stand on 3 hooves while I worked on one hoof.

This is Cricket's 2nd founder event. She came here in chronic pain. She was rehabbed within 5 months and was doing well until she was put into a situation that sent her back into acute laminitis.

In my opinion, each time a horse goes into acute laminitis, then founder, the subsequent damage to the laminae is worsened with each event. I suspect that is due to the fact that after foundering, a hoof doesn't ever completely return to the state that it was before the first event due to the damage incurred by the laminae and solar papilae - once compromised, always compromised, at least to some degree. This my not be true in every case, but possibly in most cases.

So Cricket just could not tolerate the pain associated with standing on three hooves. I tried everything I could think of and became very frustrated with her lack of cooperation, but at the same time, I knew she was in a lot of pain. I tried mass doses of pain reliever and finally raising her in a sling, which I thought was my last resort at the time. But this smart little mare prooved me wrong.

For a long time, I couldn't do anything with her feet to help her and the condition of her hooves was really becoming a huge concern. Her frogs were getting extremely thrushy as well, so I knew that was causing much of the pain she was experiencing.

Feeling defeated, I was beginning to wonder if the kindest thing for me to do for her was to put her down.

Cricket laying down for me so I would work on her hooves.

But I started going into her stall with my tools anytime I found her laying down on her chest and I'd ask her to lay down completely on her side. Surprisingly she complied the first few times I did that!

Now, everytime I walk into her stall with my tools, I say, "Lay down Cricket" and she complies. She clearly seems to understand that I'm trying to help her and she's letting me know this is the only way she can grant me access to the bottoms of her hooves. It's pretty amazing and cute!

Partially trimmed founder hoof.

Sometimes she lets out a big sigh, like "Oh good grief, this you go."

Horses are so smart! What more can I say?

Some of you have had questions about lamintis and founder and are confused about the two, how they relate, and the causes. If you would like me to explain what causes laminitis, please let me know and I'll be happy to do that here.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Delilah's Story

This is an amazing story about a horse - Delilah - who lost her hoof and her family who is standing by her helping her through some difficult procedures.

The photos are amazing. Please take a look and help if you can.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Parelli's Again.

Here is a copy of a thread from our American Hoof Association Forum. I felt so strongly about it, I thought I would add it here.

A natural hoofcare practitioner from New York started the thead with this:

Check out this guy's site.

and then check out some photos of the Parelli's horses feet.

When do they come out with the savvy feed line (filled with molasses)?

My response:

Yep, this is very sad. At this year's conference, Linda brought this new farrier out to introduce him to the crowd. She was elated with his work. "Way more than shoeing!" is what she chirped to the crowd after she'd ridden poor Remmer for about an hour during a lesson with Walter Zettl.

Linda announced that her Dutch Warmblood, Remmer, was moving better than he ever had before. Poor Remmer was obviously hurting to my eye, but he wasn't obviously lame, I think because the hooves were so locked up and he probably had some pain equally in all fours. I didn't even notice Allure’s feet. But I could only see from the stands.

I did notice the 2 and 3 year olds were already wearing shoes. The farriers who started that website and the DVD have Parellis so bamboozled. And the Parellis, who I have the greatest admiration and respect for seem ignorant about hoof care, sadly, for such a bright couple.

I posted my experience about the 2008 conference on my blog because I was so sad about their views on hoof care. They advocate dumping molasses in their horses' water and the water of the students’ horses. Which I didn't know until Kay told me and one of the students there confirmed. It would not surprise me at all if they come out with a sweet feed that has their name on it.

During the 3 days of the conference, if I heard Pat say the word "Natural" once, I heard it a balizzion times. He says it makes his heart hurt to see some of the contraptions people put on their horses, torture devices to get the horses to cooperate with them. But his heart is okay with those hooves apparently. My heart was hurting for their horses.

At a tour stop in Billing a few months prior to the Conference, I personally handed Pat two copies of Joe Camp's book, with a note from Joe and a note from me inside along with my business card. I hoped that they read his book, but Joe said a few negative things about Linda (he was complimentary of Pat, but NOT Linda) so anything else he had to say in his book probably turned her off...if she read it. It would have had that affect on me as well.

So Bummer! Parelli's have such a profound impact and millions of horse people all over the world, including the Queen of England and her trainers! They are teaming up with amazing people like Driving Instructor, Nate Bowers whose dad was the most well known expert in natural driving trainer in the country, and the Dog Whisperer - Cesar Millan, and Dressage Horsemaster, Walter Zettl.

And now these farriers who came up with a tricky way to make owners think they are onto some amazing new contrivance for correcting hooves with shoes. And Parelli's they've gotten so far behind these farriers, their DVD is now advertised on Parelli's website!

And THAT has had a profound impact on this one Parelli student. And believe me, I’m not just someone who has dabbled in their training methods for a few years. Although, I've only passed the first Level assessment test with my mare, the Parelli professional who evaluated my test announced to a crowd of students that I was sitting with, that my test was 500 times better than his own. I was knocked out by that. I’ve been a practicing Parelli since 1996.

I'm a Parelli Amabassador! You should see my house! I have ALL the Parelli Level's programs (old set & new set) I have two sets of his original VHS tapes from his earliest days, and every set of DVD's they've introduced since then, Liberty and Horse Behavior and the Success Series, as well as the new Patterns programs.

My closet is full of Parelli shirts, jackets, coats, hats as well as pins, keychains, etc. In my barn, I have 5 carrot sticks and halters, so many different length ropes, I can’t keep track of them all.

I have the complete set of Savvy Club DVDs and CDs. We've devoted an acre of our property to a Parelli Playground AND I have tickets to a conference in Reno next year!

Two years ago I ordered a Parelli Saddle with my name on the gold plate on the back of the cantle along with all the accessories – a year later it arrived on my door step, that’s how back logged they were on their saddles!

I have invested thousands on what these people offer, because when it comes to their theories, I'm a believer! I use what I’ve learned to help other horse owners and with every customer’s horse and they "usually" love to cooperate with me.

It's not just about getting along with horses, it's learning the psychology of horses that works on any animal, including people!

But what they're doing with their horses' hooves and now that they are advocating a farrier who nails shoes and pads onto hooves with underun heels and long toes and they use a laser level to impress them by shoeing horses from the knees down, goes against everything I know to be true about the most important part of the horse besides his mind...okay...deep breath.

Sorry to get so emotional…this one really hits a nerve, but I'm glad you brought it up. I wish we could do something about it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Oxine and Citric Acid mixture WARNING

Hi Everyone,

In a previous post, which I'm going to take down, I recommended this mixture (Oxine and citric Acid) as it was recommended to me as cure for white line disease and thrush. I've read that many are having a good success rate with treating some hoof condition with it.

But I've had some negative experiences with it. And I'm not longer recommending it. In fact I'm warning against it's use as I do bleach or any other chemical treatments of hooves.

1. It didn't touch the white line infection on my gelding.

2. I used it on a founder mare's thrushy frogs and it cured the thrush and destroyed her frogs.

3. I took a whiff of the mixture after it was diluted and it burned my throat and caused me to feel like I was going to pass out.

This is solution that I've read it used for santising restaurant kitchens and practitioners have been using, apparently with success on some cases of white line.

But it is strong, scary stuff and should not be mixed in an enclosed area. It's being recommended by some very experienced professional hoof care practitioners, but I'm concerned that it will kill live tissue along with bad bacteria. I doubt anyone has done that type of a study on it.

So please don't use it on your horses. As a cleaner, it probably works well, but as with any cleaner, don't breath it!

I apologize for recommending it before testing it myself.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

On the Road...Again

Some days, when I'm on my way to horses, I look out my window and think about the past. I wonder why there have been so many difficult times. Not just financially, but physically and esspecially emotionally. I've been hurt by people who walked away feeling better about themselves for having made me feel terrible.

I think about the journey my life has been. I remember the many years worth of morning racing into town traffic, cursing the other drivers and the crappy weather and my vain attempts at trying to be at my desk in the basement of city hall, trying to look busy before the boss got there. Then feeling the adrenalin rush subside and wishing I was still in bed, toasty warm, in comfy pajamas with my soft pillow cradling my head. Instead of sitting in a chilly office, wearing constricting undergarments and a wobbly office chair cradling my butt.


Now, I set my own schedule. My head leaves my pillow when I hear the donkey's braying for their breakfast. I love the rain, the sun, the cold, the heat. It's all good!

I love the horses - most of them, and the horse owners -most of them (lets be real). And I'm usually on the roads when everyone else isn't. That's often when I turn to look out my "office" window and realize how much I'm enjoying the the next turn, to the next horse, to the next day that I get to be here - alive and happy.

"Living well IS the best revenge."
George Herbert

That road trip is one I taped parts of last January to and from Mineral Lake, Washington.

Gotta run now! See ya on the road.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Founder isn't fun!

This is Cricket. She's been the subject of other posts. She came here as a founder case, and was rehabbed and sound for awhile, but something happened while I had her on a borrowed pasture and I found her in the acute stage of laminitis (inflammed sensitive (dermal) laminae.)

So I brought her home just about the time apples were ripening. Neighbors often don't understand how detrimental sweets can be to certain horses. She was offered a few two many apples over the fence and that sent her over the edge to founder. The laminae has been destroyed and she will need to grow out new hoof capsules and if everything is right, she may be sound again. We'll see.

Cricket has been spending most of her time for the past few months in the stall. I've been feeding her differently types of hays and some beet pulp mixtures, MSM, and a product called Remission. I've been trying to keep her trimmed, but it's been difficult for her to completely unweight one foot. She's not very cooperative anyway, but this makes working on her feet so much more difficult!

For the first few months after the initial laminitic episode, she lived in the Soft Ride Comfort hoof boots. Which work very well in these cases, because if they're fitted well, they don't rub. But when I took her out of the boots she could barely take a step.

So we lined her stall with some recycled mats that Rich was able to get from a school renovation job. They work really well. Very cushy and more comfortable for her since she was laying down a lot for a few months.

Another benefit of these mats is they are very thick. I took a picture of the bottom side, but managed to delete it from my camera. I'll get another one and load it later. This stall usually floods in the rainy season. So we don't have to worry about that happening again. Nice. The urine drains better with these than with regular stall mats also.

Yesterday, I decided that if I was going to get her feet trimmed and treated for the nasty thrush infection she's developing in her frogs, I was going to have to lift her up off all fours. So I pulled out the horse sling that we invested in when I had my first serious founder case here for treatment. This sling cost $1,000. Rehabbing horses isn't cheap!

Here is the sling laid out and ready to go. The white padded tubes at the top go between the horse's hind legs and the fleesie pad at the bottom goes around her chest.

This is her with the sling partially attached. We have a ways to go and she wasn't real happy about the padded tubes between her hind legs. But I didn't get a picture of her with that part on. Once we had the entire sling on her body, Rich got concerned about how she would react when she realized she was attached to the back hoe and lifted her up a bit too quickly.

When she felt the tubes zip up between her legs she freaked out. The area we were doing this in was too confined and well, Houdini would have been proud of how she managed to get most the way out of the sling, before she allowed us to detach it from her body completely. What a disappointment.

What did we learn from this situation? Sedate the victim? In her case, we probably should have done that.

Go slower with the lift? Yep, equine wedgies are not well tolerated by frisky mares. Geldings don't seem to mind them. Go figure.

Make sure the area is clear of everything! Yes, Cricket busted a rasp in half during the freak out! A rasp! It was a Save Edge rasp though. A Heller Legend probably wouldn't have broken!:0) That's why I recommend the Hellers!

Well, more about Cricket at a later date. I figured I haven't shared any shots of Neenah for awhile. Here she is! Having a rest!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Draft Hoof

This is a picture I took a few years ago at our state fair of a Percheron's foot.

Normal people take lovely pictures of the horse's head, or body shots showing the sheer size of these gorgeous animals.

But not me! I take a picture of the bottoms of the hooves. An area very few of us ever even notice, which is why they often look like this. No one complains, not even the horse. And the horse has every right to be really pissed about being forced to live with this crappy shoeing job!

Drafts can be big, naughty, combersome animals to trim and/or shoe so their hooves usually aren't maintained on the most frequent basis, not the mention the cost, unless owners work on their own draft horses. Which is often the case because after all, they are just draft horses, it's not like they ride them or anything. Right?

This horse is suffering from severe flare, causing separation of the white line and opening his hooves up to potential cases of white line disease and/or abscessing. The flare should have been addressed with the trim. It hasn't been addressed with the trim, so this hoof, with it's $200 or $300 dollar shoeing job (for all fours) is in exactly the same predicament as any long-term neglected hoof would be.

Flaring also allows the soles to become flat and tender so you can see in the picture the pad that is added to protect the sole and frog. This pad and shoe takes the entire bottom of the hoof out of function. The frog atrophies like any other body part that isn't being used. Draft horses can have just as wonderful and shapely hooves as any other horse. Owners of drafts just need to educate themselves about how to make that happen. Their horses could move and pull with much more athletism if their feet were more normally shaped.

One of the worst cases of flare in draft horses that I've ever seen is on the Percherons owned by the Preifert Fence Panel company. Boy, if you get to chance to see their hooves in a picture or in person...yikes! I happened to see a picture of these horses in the Capital Press paper and I cut it out, it was so horrible. The team of horses were pulling a wagon at break-neck speed as part of the opening ceremony for last year's Bishop Mule Festival. I could not believe they could keep from tripping over the duck billed hooves. It was an awful sight. No horses should have to live with feet like that, especially working horses.

I just wanted to point this out to you. If you are interested and you happen to be walking past the pretty draft horses at the fair, notice the hooves. This should shock you just as much as when you see a horse that hasn’t had any hoofcare in years. Spencer’s hooves are a good example of extreme neglect. (

If this doesn’t shock you, let me know, I can help you learn why it should.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hoof Stands

If your back tends to tire when it’s time to pick pooh from your Hanoverian’s hooves, or if you need a stand when you clip around the coronet band while preening your Palomino, nothing will come in handier than a hoof stand!

For anyone who is considering the purchase of a hoof stand, I can’t recommend it enough. The benefits are nearly endless.

It will save your back during daily hoofcare, and when cleaning and prepping hooves for competition.

It will keep your horse comfortable while you work on his hooves so there is less fidgeting.

Your hoofcare professional will appreciate your horse being familiar with quietly leaving his hoof in/on the stand.

If you’re considering learning to trim your horse’s hooves yourself because you don’t live near any competent hoofcare professionals, you’re going to need one of these babies eventually.

In my opinion, though, not all hoof stands are worth purchasing. I figured I’d save you some money and frustration by sharing my thoughts about two of the most popular hoof stands on the market today. The Hoof Jack and the Hoof it – Hoof Stand.

I’ve always used the Hoof Jack.

Its cloth cradle is comfortable for the horse and offers enough flexibility that you can maneuver the hoof as you need to work on it. The posts are rubber instead of steel. The stands, cradles and post come in different sizes. The stand is shipped to you with a DVD on how to properly use it. Best of all the Hoof Jack is light weight.

You do need to remove the cradle from the stand when you need to change over to the post. To do that you have to unscrew a wingnut, but that’s not a big deal and after some practice, changing from cradle to post takes about 2 seconds. I sometimes will prop the hoof on one end of the cradle if I’m being too lazy to change out to the post, but that does wear out your cradle faster. All parts are replaceable.

I’ve also used the Hoof it Hoof Stand.

While the Hoof It Stand is less expensive than the Hoof Jack, and you can make it work for you, it is not as convenient to use as it might seem. Raising and lowering the post within the cradle can be frustrating and the post has to really be pushed into the cradle or the hoof sits on top of the post and rocks around when you’re working on the bottom of the hoof.

However, if you push the post all the way down into the cradle, it’s a pain to get it out again. I have to switch back and forth from cradle to post continually in my job and I could not put up with that much frustration for long. Also, there is a clamp, rather than a screw to keep the post/cradle at the appropriate height and that clamp can be very difficult to open and close.

For someone who doesn’t change back and forth from the cradle to the post often, the savings might be worth it, but in all likelihood, if you buy one, you will eventually replace it with a Hoof Jack. Save yourself some money and just get the HJ first.

Also, I have to comment on other types of stands, especially homemade ones. Before you go that route, think about the stand and what “will” happen “when” the horse knocks the stand onto its side and drops her leg down onto the base. It WILL happen. I’d much rather have my horse whack her leg on a plastic/resin base than one made of an rusty old plow disc.

The super cheap, 3-legged metal stands (my first stand) is really tipsy and just not safe.

Metal posts are also dangerous and not comfortable for the horse. Another thing to think about is the outcome when the horse knocks you off balance and you land on the stand. Give me a rubber post any day!

Hope this helps you!


Thursday, October 23, 2008

2008 AHA Region V 50 Mile Championship

Diane Stevens and her "barefoot" Arabian mare, Elation, Won the 2008 AHA Region V 50 Mile Championship.

This is what she had to say:

Friends and family,
I wanted to pass along my mare Elation's Championship info. Elation and I won the 2008 AHA Region V 50 Mile Championship. Elation was also awarded the covanent Best Conditon Award! Elation had a blistering finish time of 4 hours 39 minutes and also finished with all A's on her vet card. She is a special mare....Thank you everyone for your support!

Diane and Elation

Look at those loooong legs!

Elation is beautiful! And she is shoeless! Diane trims her hooves, herself! Very cool!

Congratulations Diane and Elation!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Q & A Thin soles

Our vet suggested painting a mix of turpentine, formaldehyde and Betadine onto the soles of our stallions hooves. He is still tenderfooted. Is that a good idea or not? My instinct says it wouldn't do him much good, his soles are just thin. That's not going to get material to grow, and could hurt him instead? I just wanted your opinion before we really mess him up with something that shouldn't be done.

NOPE! That is not a good idea. You figured correctly.

It blows my mind that there are vets out there still prescribing this combination of caustic chemicals for horse's hooves. It seems that they feel like they're dealing with chunks of wood with a bone inside. Isn't there some sort of creed they swear to about harming living things?

It would seem that combinatons like that, turpentine and formaldehyde could harm living tissue. The Betadine would likely not be hurtful, I use mild iodine (1 to 2% at most) in my practice for treating thrush, and as a precautionary measure to keep thrush from invading tissue when I’ve had to trim away flappy frog material. (I DO NOT routinely cut away the outer layer of frog material which is the pradice of some farrier’s, because anytime you carve the outer – protective layer of a frog you open it up to harmful bacteria that can lead to thrush and other problems. And you will notice, over time the frog literally atrophies to a thin strip when it’s been cut away routinely. Apparently, it just gives up trying to bounce back to a nice wide healthy frog.

The combination of caustic agents that your vet is suggesting is an old horse-shoers’ trick to harden soles. But it can really backfire on many levels. And heck fire! You can always blame something else if the horse reacts negatively to it.

I’m just left to wonder why it would cause the soles to harden. Is the sole steeling itself to the agents that burn? And if it really does work, I wonder, do vets or farriers know why?

My dad used to tell me that he de-wormed his dogs with things like turpentine and chewing tobacco and my parents treated an assortment of animal related issues with used motor old. Why used? The only thing I can think of is that people were very conservative after the depression era. You wouldn’t have wasted new motor oil on the livestock!

Rule of thumb! If you wouldn’t put it on your dogs’ or cats’ paws, don’t put it on your horse’s hooves!

If your horse’s soles are still thin and tender, then his healthy angles likely haven't been established from coronet to the ground, which can take time. But if it's been awhile, another factor to pay close attention to is diet.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Parelli Savvy Conference 2008

It’s 6:30 in the morning and I'm sitting in our room at the Pagosa Inn thinking about everything we’ve experienced so far at the Parelli's International Savvy Center here in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Today will be our last day and then we have the long drive home to Washington.

Once every year, since 1996, the Parellis, and their amazing team, have opened their beautiful learning center to the public. This year it was opened to Savvy Club members and their guests.

The first conference I attended here was in 2002. Just flying into Durango and catching a ride to Pagosa Springs was an adventure! And they took such great care of us here. It was amazing and fun.

Nathan Bowers with Thunder and Lightening! The first horses we see as we walk up to the big Coverall. If you go to his family's website, Nate and his father (who passed away last year) have some excellent DVD's and books on driving.

Savvy Team: Amy Book is riding 2 horses at one time. That was a hoot watching those little guys trotting around the arena. They really gave her buttcheeks a workout! Everyone was roaring. That is Emily, on one of her big half draft horses. They look like brothers although not related. Their names are Ahug and Akiss.

Looking into the covered arena on one of our breaks.

Amy Book and Casper, the only other person Pat has allowed to play with Casper in public.

Kali The Cowgirl playing with her horse and 4 Atwood Ranch Babies. She eventually loaded all 5 horses into a horse trailer to the cheers and standing ovation of the crowd!

Savvy Team - Team Work!

At this conference, on our second night here (after being dazzled by the savvy highlights of the day) we were treated with an incredible meal and the traditional dance with a live band in the huge covered arena. Pat Parelli picked his guitar with the perfect precision of a professional player. (Oh, he’d like that I think!) The Saturday Nite Dance after a great dinner! There must have been at least a couple thousand Parellittes at this conference. (I think basically, the people who are the most critical of PNH, are the ones who know the least about it.)

We learned that there will be many changes in the Parelli organization. For one, this will be the last Savvy Conference held here in Colorado. Starting next year, rather than hosting their annual Savvy Conference here, the Parellis will be organizing 9 Conferences around the world, (7 in the US) and they will no longer be hosting the many tour stops around the country.

The first tour stop I attended was in 2001. It hardly seems possible that Pat Parelli, his family and staff, who have appeared in huge venues all over the world, including performances for the Queen of England, and they were once at the Trails End Arena, in Tumwater, Washington. Caton was a teenager pestering the girls at every opportunity. Now, he’s engaged!

We were also told about all the major changes that are coming to the Parelli program. There is SO MUCH we can expect in the future; I can’t even begin to list it all here! But we’ll be hearing much more by January 2009.

Rich and I attended a tour stop recently in Billings, Montana, Pat shared some of the upcoming changes with the volunteers and one thing he told us was that, instead of the tour stops, they will be sending local Savvy teams to the many local equine expos, and state fairs. I think this is a smart way for them to get their message out to people who might not otherwise attend to a tour stop just to see them, so they might not ever be exposed to the awesome relationship building skills they can learn through Parelli Natural Horsemanship (PNH.)

The rest of us will no longer have to travel as far to attend a Savvy Conference here in Colorado. The closest one to us will be held in Reno and we already have tickets! There is a possibility that we may be able bring our horses and perform auditions for the new patterns programs.

No more levels! Rather than the assessment tests of the past, students will be auditioning their skills in front of Parelli Professionals and they will become certified if they excel in the area they are auditioning for.

It’s sounds unusual, but they’ve given this a great deal of consideration and research and even though the changes mean many of us who have been working on passing our levels will be moving onto something different, but these innovative new changes will help us reach our goals faster and keep our horses being getting dulled by repetition of the 7 games. That happens when students learn only enough to become boring with their horses.

It’s been so emotional watching the amazing riding and equine relationships that Pat and Linda’s young superstars have with their horses. I have to say, this is the first time I’ve seen anyone riding two minis at the same time!

Not many people around the country are privileged enough to see Master Horseman and teacher, Walter Zettl instruct a riding lesson with a master rider, like Linda Parelli.

Walter Zettl encouraging Parelli Course Students.

One of the Play Fields.

Pat, his son Caton and Dave Ellis cutting cattle.

But it was quiet as night, as thousands of us witnessed this dressage master teaching Linda while she rode her Dutch warm blood, Remmer.

He told us that he hasn’t been able to attend dressage events in many years because of what he sees going on in the practice arenas. He said classical dressage training has changed over the years and the torture of the horses that he sees today makes him sick. (However, that same sentiment is true for many other types of training. Winning seems to be everything.)

He was so complimentary of Parelli horses and students. The horses are calm, he said, and will stand still when being mounted. And the students have soft hands.

On another note, my heart was breaking while I watched Remmer move around the arena. On all 4 of his hooves, he was wearing thick pads, wedges and egg bar shoes. I’m guessing that he must be dead lame without all of that on his hooves.

(Linda on Remmer. This is when I noticed the eggbar shoes, wedges and pads. He was toe stabbing with nearly ever step, not landing heel first and his gait seemed a bit stilted. )

While in one of the “shopping” tents, I noticed a booth with a DVD about fluid movement and thought perhaps the man attending it was an equine chiropractor, but after we chatted long enough for him to admit he was a farrier, and I divulged my profession, he said he had a real problem with the title, Natural Hoof Care Practitioner because there was nothing “natural” about using nippers and rasps on hooves.

I didn’t correct him by saying that it was not the process that was natural, but our end product was much more natural than his.

(Remmers hooves. I couldn't get a real clear shot. )

After hearing his side of the issue out, I mentioned that someone needed to fix poor Remmer’s feet. His response was that there was no longer anything wrong with Remmer. Remmer's “done been fixed!”

Not without a bit of skepticism in my voice, I said, “He's fixed...?”
He replied, “Yes Ma’am! He is fixed!”

I locked onto his eyes at that point, and felt him lose a bit of his confidence, but then I was distracted by a couple southern ladies who were using my 6’5” husband as a sweatshirt model to see if they could find a shirt that would fit a gal back home. (If she is the same size a Rich, she must be a force to be reckoned with!)

Well, I guess horse shoer’s logic means a hoof with a bunch of crap nailed onto the bottom of it means “He’s done been fixed!”

I’ve heard shoers make that stupid announcement more than once. They watch a foundered horse trot off in the most hidious horseshoe contraptions, and just because the horse isn't limping, they proudly proclaim, “That horse is sound! Look at that!“

That horse is not sound! It’s still a foundered horse! It just doesn’t know it when the hooves have been locked into and numbed by the shoes. But if he’s ridden in that situation, he’s only going to get worse, not better. It’s kind like going on your daily run with a cast on your broken leg. Your leg is supported by the cast, but it’s still a broken leg and running on it WILL make it worse.

In my opinion, if a horse cannot move soundly barefoot, he is not sound. No matter what you nail to the bottoms of his feet, HE IS NOT SOUND!

Pat Parelli says that it makes his heart bleed when he sees what horses are put through by professional predators and others who prescribe to cruel traditional methods of training.

I wanted to tell him that it makes my heart bleed to see what they are doing to nearly all their horses feet. The babies aren't even given a chance to prove what they can do barefoot. The damage shoes cause begins as soon as the young ones are started under saddle.

Pasture (horse shoer’s) trims perpetuate the need for shoes and shoes perpetuate the need for more drastic shoeing measures. It’s an endless cycle that can easily be prevented.

Pat is critical of others who go out and buy bigger bits to get control of their horses. Yet, has nothing to say about farriers applying more drastic (and devastating) shoeing methods to cover up the damage previously done to the hooves by shoes. Bigger bits, just like bigger corrective shoes, don’t fix the problem…just temporarily covers it up.

Get the horse out of the shoes, transition him to barefoot and you have a healthier, more naturally moving horse. Even if you feel the need to have the shoes tacked on for riding. At least you are shoeing a healthy hoof and not a hoof that can no longer function.

That’s were bare hoof practitioners and farriers differ. We feel that a sound barefoot horse IS “fixed.” A horse with all kinds of crutch material attach to his hooves in order to keep him from limping, is not a “fixed” horse. Bandaging a cut, doesn’t mean the cut is healed. It just means you’ve attached something to catch the blood.

While watching Linda perform an extended trot, I could see in my minds-eye how incredibly he could extend if his hooves were not so restricted that he feels nothing but numbness to the pain. If he not as obese and his hooves were sound barefoot, he’d be more than a wonderful mover, he’d be amazing!

Linda seemed to be thrilled with his performance however and brought her farrier out in front of the crowd to thank him. “Way more than shoeing!” She chimed out to the audience.

My heart was bleeding for her horse and I wondered if he would be lame the next morning.

How would I have fixed a horse like him? First off, I would change his diet. I would educate the owners about understand the impact that sugar has on the lamina of the hoof. Sugar weakens the lamina and causes it to break down, laminitis and pain. Pretty simple.

Some people add molasses to their horses’ drinking water at home and when traveling. They offer their horses the best “sweet” feeds money can buy. With no regard to what they’re doing to their horse’s hooves.

So diet causes a problem that is later addressed with shoes. Diet, farrier pasture trims and shoes! One leads to the other and shoes perpetuate the need for more drastic shoeing methods.

Sunday 9pm:

We just got back from a late dinner after our last day at the Parelli Ranch. It was an amazing day! I love it all, but my favorite part was watching Pat’s talented niece, Amy, playing with his stallion, Casper. She is someone we are going to seeing a lot of in the future.

During the conference, the new Patterns programs were introduced. Yes, I got them!

At the end of the day, Pat, and his business manager, Mark, sat down in the middle of the arena and asked the audience for their thoughts on what they would like to see in the future for PNH.

Despite having to listen to a couple whiners complain about issues the Parellis had no control over, like “I haave Die-Lup. So how kin you’ll maake it ez-er fer maee ta down lood stuff fraum yer weB siTe?

Huh? “Duh, I don’t know…Try getting a new ISP perhaps.

But one lady said she’d like to see a Senior Savvy Club! That one got cheers!

The three days were filled with mind-blowing performances, educational sessions, standing ovations, laughter and lots and lots of tears. It was so worth the trip.

Casanova, Son of Nova aka Bossynova. He looks a lot like Neenah, only bigger!

This is what we were treated to outside our hotel window just before we left for the long drive home!

Monday and we are homeward bound.

Riding in the back seat of a Subaru Outback. We are about 70 miles from Twin Falls, Idaho. We’ll spend the night there. On the way home, we’ll be stopping in Battle Ground, Washington to help out a foundered pony.

This is really the life!